Wednesday, August 26, 2009

City of Thieves

I just finished reading a fantastic novel about the siege of Leningrad (St. Petersburg). How many of you know that during WWII, Leningrad was under siege for 900 days? Can you imagine? People were so hungry that they boiled the glue from book bindings down and made "Library Candy." I knew about the siege, I even visited the memorial in St. Petersburg when I was there in 2001, but I didn't understand, not fully, what had happened. It had been so black-and-white before. I knew the facts, two-dimensionally imagined the horrors and tragedies that transpired, but I didn't feel it. It wasn't until I read this book that I died a little inside. The book, City of Thieves, by David Benioff, is dark, humorous, and beautiful (not to mention horrific and tense).

It is everything I want my first novel, Rohana, to be like. It is the first novel I have read since I began writing Rohana that showed me exactly what I wanted to achieve, exactly how I wanted to affect my readers. In my book, Rohana, the main character, witnesses horror to a degree most of us cannot even imagine, just as the people of Leningrad (and, well, most of Europe) experienced during WWII.

I lay in bed last night, trying to fall asleep, trying to banish the image of the last scene I had just read--and yet, I didn't want to forget it. The scene was so brutal, so inhuman, that I wanted to see it and feel it just as the main character, Lev, did. I wanted to be there for him, to help him get through it. Does that make any sense? Lev (and the other characters) became real enough for me that I wanted to absorb as much of the horror as I could so that he could be protected.

I want my readers to feel that way about Rohana. I want them to care for her and see both the brutality and the beauty of humanity through her eyes. I want my readers to want to see more, and yet want to put blinders on her so that she won't see more.

One thing about David Benioff's writing that I'd like everyone to experience is the lyricism, the poetry. The descriptions truly put you there, then.

Rohana needs a massive amount of revision to get it even close to City of Thieves.

(BTW, this is easily my favorite book of the year.)


Jacqui said...

I loved this book too. I felt a little cheated by the ending of the external story structure, but the Leningrad story was absolutely fantastic.

Val said...

appreciated :-)

Val said...

Here in Russia this book costs ~100$. 8-(
Is it the same in USA?

Amber Lough said...

Val---$100? Really? My dad bought the book at the airport for less than $10. Email me your address at ambotchka at me dot com and I'll mail you a copy, if you like. Of course, it won't be in Russian. Is there even a Russian translation available?

Val said...

Yeah, really ( The price is 3660 roubles = $ 116!
I was told that the price is so high because it’s new publishing. (I’m afraid of thinking how much the “Rohana” will cost).
Thanks for your generous offering but I’ll better wait for your book with the author’ sig. ;-))

Amber Lough said...

Val, I really don't mind. If there's ever a book you would like from the USA, just let me know. I'd love to mail you something!

Val said...

OK. ;-))

Elindomiel said...

You've convinced me to go find this book.

Amber Lough said...

Good! I think you'll like it.